Japan’s cities of Tokyo and Kyoto are awash in 5-star hotels and luxe accommodations. Sophisticated design and a commitment to the Japanese concept of omotenashi, or hospitality, set these places apart.
From the moment you set foot in the Mandarin Oriental, the sumptuous interior seduces you with its gleaming polished wood, cool-stone surfaces and custom fabrics by textile designer Reiko Sudo. A sleek haven of contemporary design, the hotel houses 178 chic rooms, including 22 plush suites with postcard-perfect views of Mount Fuji.
Travel-weary guests can decompress with pampering treatments at the award-winning spa or, better yet, relax with one (or 2) of the expertly mixed cocktails in the stunning Mandarin Bar on the 37th floor. With an array of fantastic dining options -- from the Michelin-starred French and Chinese restaurants Signature and Sense, to the cutting-edge Tapas Molecular Bar and traditional sushi restaurant Sora -- you may be tempted to never leave.
A stone’s throw from Hibiya Park and the Imperial Palace Garden, the Peninsula is also a few minutes’ walk from the fashionable shopping district of Ginza. The 314-unit hotel features guest rooms bigger than the average Tokyo apartment, gargantuan suites and a sparkling indoor swimming pool area that recalls the set of a James Bond film. But the thoughtful details – red-lacquered elm desks, woven bamboo ceilings, sliding wooden doors with gently curved edges -- are what make the stay here special.
The venerable Park Hyatt hotel sits atop a tower designed by famed Japanese architect Kenzo Tange, in the middle of one of Tokyo’s most bustling business, shopping and entertainment districts. The hotel got its 15 minutes of fame in the movie Lost in Translation, but guests keep coming back for the excellent amenities, splendid views and 24-hour butler service. A jazz band plays nightly in the swanky New York Bar on the 52nd floor.
A relative newcomer to the luxury hotel scene in Tokyo, the trendy Shangri-La boasts more than 2,000 pieces of original art. A blend of traditional flash (massive chandeliers and Swarovski crystal-encrusted tapestries) and contemporary cool (slick restaurant interiors designed by Hong-Kong-based designer Andre Fu, exquisite blossoms by hip Danish florist Nicolai Bergmann) gives the Shangri-La a unique feel. Rooms are spacious and comfortable, with luxurious touches such as fluffy feather duvets and L’Occitane toiletries. The hotel’s complimentary meet-and- greet pickup service from adjacent Tokyo station is a huge plus.
Perched high above the city on the top 9 floors of the 53-story Midtown Tower in Roppongi, the Ritz-Carlton offers some of the most impressive views of Tokyo. The interior, designed by Frank Nicholson, is modern and tasteful, with amber-wood walls and hand-tufted carpets and drapes. In the magnificent lobby, giant lamps dangle like inverted gumdrops from the double-height ceilings. The sprawling 21,528-square-foot spa offers a range of luxurious treatments, with luxurious price tags to match.
Designed by architect Shuwa Tei and opened in 2003, the Claska is Tokyo’s first boutique hotel, and after all this time, still its best. With an off-the-beaten-track location in Meguro ward and a modern interior of clean lines and soft earth tones, it’s an oasis of calm in the megalopolis.
Located on a quiet street in Kyoto’s famed geisha-spotting Gion district, the small but beautiful Mume hotel is one of the city’s best-kept secrets. This stylish boutique hotel weaves exotic textiles and antiques from all over the world into its modern Asian interior.
Ryokan is a traditional inn where guests can experience Japanese hospitality at its best. Built in 1818, the elegant Hiiragiya Ryokan in Kyoto is a veritable institution. Each of the 28 rooms in the 2-story wooden building is beautifully appointed with antiques and carefully chosen objet d’art. Most offer views of the immaculately manicured main garden and are outfitted with deep cypress-wood baths. Extravagant kaiseki dinners, presented on handcrafted ceramics and lacquer ware, are served in your room by the kimono-clad staff.
A treatise on simplicity, 9 Hours in central Kyoto is the world’s first designer capsule hotel, where guests settle into self-contained, molded plastic sleeping pods rather than rooms. Each capsule is fitted with a hotel-quality bed and a computer-controlled lighting system created by Panasonic.